Over the summer, we took it upon ourselves to conjure up a list of what we thought were the 20 most outrageous album covers from past and present. These were the records that caused blank stares for one, maybe two minutes. (Someone stared at the Embryonic cover for 30 minutes, but we won’t go into details. It’s a touchy subject). These were the album covers that made us scratch our heads. The album covers that invoked feelings of confusion, laughter, and at times queasiness.
But, of course, more than 20 outrageous album covers exist in this world — there are at least 40 — and after publishing Volume One, we set out on a mission to catalog the next set. Just as we warned you the first time, these are the bizarre, the strange, the unexplainable. Your confusion will not wane as you read on, but you’re bound to be entertained. We know we are.
Now begins your journey through another 20 baffling album covers. As always, please list anything you think we missed in the comments section. Who knows: we may have enough for a third volume.
Aerosmith – Just Push Play (2001)
A lot of veteran bands make bold statements to prove that they’re still hip to the times. And according to Steven Tyler and Co., the “in” thing in 2001 was Marilyn Monroe fembots. Kinda makes you long for the days when Aerosmith designed more thoughtful album art–like a cow with a pierced teat and the band’s logo branded on its side. Eh, never mind. –Matt Melis
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito (2013)
When I was in high school, I had to endure quite a few horror stories, as well as graphic footage and images, intended to shock the students out of engaging in pre-marital sex or driving drunk, reckless, or even inexperienced. It’s inevitable that the cover to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Mosquito, which re-imagines the naked baby from Nevermind as a CGI Garbage Pail Kid, will be used to scare people out of dropping acid. –Frank Mojica
Die Antwoord – Ten$ion (2012)
Being that the South African “rap-rave” group is known for its bizarre songs and grotesque videos, a cover this gruesome isn’t that surprising for Die Antwoord. While the album fostered enough attention to grant them multiple festival slots in 2012, for most critics, the unsettling image of a winged Yolandi Visser gorging on a bloody heart was just as hard to stomach as the album. –Danielle Janota
Green Day – Dookie (1994)
February 1 marks the 20th anniversary of Green Day’s Dookie. That means we’ve had 20 years to try to decipher what exactly is going on in its, dare we say, outrageous album cover. From first glance, it’s simply a dog piloting a jet dropping bombs of dookie onto a town in a state of anarchy. Straightforward enough. But there’s so much more. You’ve got God up in his cloud, laughing his ass off. You’ve got other dogs pouring liquid dookie on the town’s citizens. You’ve got an ape holding a pile of dookie, contemplating whether he should throw it. Among the town’s citizens is a cat, a minotaur, a guy with a jack-o’-lantern head, Patti Smith, and Angus Young. Yes, there are stories and symbolism strewn throughout the chaotic cover, but we’re not here to talk about that right now. We’re here to applaud its absurdity. Bravo, Green Day, bravo. —Katrina Nattress
Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual (Clean Cover)
When certain retailers wouldn’t stock Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual de lo Habitual due to the nudity depicted in frontman Perry Farrell’s cover artwork, the band opted to replace the original cover’s busyness and bodies with plenty of white space and the text from the First Amendment (also known as the “free speech” amendment). If that subtle jab wasn’t enough, the band printed the following on the album’s back cover:
“Hitler’s syphilis-ridden dreams almost came true. How could it happen? By taking control of the media. An entire country was led by a lunatic… We must protect our First Amendment, before sick dreams become law. Nobody made fun of Hitler??!”
The joke on censorship, of course, is that the sanitized “clean cover” is actually far more outrageous than the original artwork. Take that, Walmart! –Matt Melis
Action Bronson – Saaab Stories (2013)
This photograph may look like a still from behind-the-scenes footage of a porn with a racist title, but it’s actually the artwork to Action Bronson’s debut EP. During a time when hip-hop is questioned and criticized more than ever for its attitudes towards women, Bronson cemented his stance with a cover as full-on absurd as its contents. –Frank Mojica
Aphex Twin – Richard D. James Album (1996)
Richard D. James, a.k.a., Aphex Twin’s, creepy visage, became iconic once the critically acclaimed “Intelligent Dance Music” album inspired countless musicians, even the infamously nitpicky Radiohead. While the evil eyes of the electronic composer glaring into your soul suggest wickedness, the ambient record is actually more tranquil than maniacal. –Danielle Janota
Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam (2007)
The title of Animal Collective’s seventh studio album came to Panda Bear while flying to a show in Greece. His complimentary meal came with a side of strawberry jam, and, entranced by its glistening contents, he told his bandmates he wanted the record to sound like the jam looked: “something that’s really sharp and synthetic and futuristic looking.” It was Avey Tare that created and photographed the less than appetizing cover art. Let’s hope the actual inspiration looked a little more yummy. –Katrina Nattress
David Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant (2012)
The cover of Love This Giant reminds me of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, only with farmhouse and pitchfork swapped out in favor of creepy plastic surgery. Eyes will first dart to Annie Clark, who appears to have a wire coat hanger planted firmly in cheek. Creepier still is David Byrne’s cleft chin. David Byrne doesn’t have a cleft chin! Let’s just hope all this was achieved through the magic of Photoshop. I hear that stuff can even make Kim Kardashian not look like a hobbit. –Matt Melis
Insane Clown Posse – The Tempest (2007)
What, no more demented clown mascot? As an album, The Tempest may liken a thunder storm to a roller coaster ride, but the sub-Pen & Pixel photoshopped cover requires some suspension of disbelief. Anyone that’s ever had a trip to an amusement park or county fair cut short knows how quickly things get shut down before there’s even a hint of lightning that epic. –Frank Mojica
Diplo – Revolution (2013)
As much as you’d love to hate this cover for accommodating a stupidly popular dance craze, there’s just something about a wall of twerkers forming a historical sign of strength and unity that makes it so hard to look away. –Danielle Janota
Black Dice – Broken Ear Record (2005)
Sure, it’s called Broken Ear Record, but looking long enough at this technicolor, beaded, porn-collage from Rhode Island noiseniks Black Dice and you might break a cornea or two. Much like their music, this one pushes the borders of the socially acceptable while also indulging in some mischievous, childlike glee. –Adam Kivel
Beastie Boys – Hello Nasty (1998)
Hello Nasty is a late-‘90s classic. Songs like “Body Movin’”, “Intergalactic”, and “Three MC’s and One DJ” are bound to make you get nasty on the dance floor, but the nastiest aspect of this album is its art. If you think sardines smell bad, just think about peeling away that tin and finding Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA in there instead… on the sun. –Katrina Nattress
Boned – Up at the Crack (2004)
Wisecrack all you want, but deep down you just wish you’d thought of it first. —Matt Melis
Trick Daddy – www.thug.com (1998)
Remember what the web used to look like? Perhaps not, but thankfully Trick Daddy has preserved the eyesore that was the Internet of the ’90s. Does thug.com have frames and animated gifs? Is there a MIDI of “Stroke It Gently” auto-playing in the background? Is Trick’s grill clickable, and will it take me to an Easter egg, or perhaps a guestbook? Tragically, we’ll never know, because thug.com is no longer his official website. –Frank Mojica
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (1974)
RCA Records felt that the 1974 album’s original cover, painted by Belgian artist, Guy Peellaert, was too shocking for commercial release because it clearly depicted the Bowie-dog’s genitalia. How funny, since the most disturbing part of the image might actually be, oh, I don’t know, the entire thing. –Danielle Janota
Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)
We imagine Cream’s album art conversation with artist Martin Sharp going something like this:
Martin Sharp: I want the cover to capture the sound of the music, warm and florescent.”
Eric Clapton: Yeah man, warm and florescent. Bright.
Jack Bruce: Bright colors, flowers.
Ginger Baker: And our faces peering out like florescent, majestic mountains.
Clapton: Ginger, are you tripping?
Baker: Why, do you want some?
In fact, we believe this is how many psychedelic album covers were born. The ‘60s were magical. –Katrina Nattress
Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals (1998)
Can shock rocker Marilyn Manson even register as outrageous anymore? I’m not sure, but in 1998, the cover of Mechanical Animals really freaked us out. I still blame Manson’s gray, anatomically bizarre alien bodysuit for both recurring nightmares and me failing my middle school anatomy class. –Matt Melis